Guided reading is the aspect of Primary English teaching that we’re asked about more than any other. We’ve written about it several times in our articles: guided reading, watching the detectives: inference and deduction and UKEd chat – CPD from the comfort of your own home. As advocates of guided reading; and knowing that it concerns teachers so much, we’ve written this article to help you move your guided reading from good to great.
A recipe for success?
We’re often asked if we have a recipe for the perfect guided reading lesson, something that will get you an outstanding lesson judgement. We haven’t: and we don’t believe that such a thing exists. Lessons are outstanding in the context of the teaching and learning that has preceded them. What we have got though are some ways of integrating imaginative teaching strategies (Ofsted, School inspection handbook: Outstanding grade descriptor – Quality of teaching in the school, p.39) into your guided reading lessons.
Flipping it about
In our article guided reading we introduced the idea of flipping the learning. That is, giving power to children working within NC levels 4, 5 and 6 so that they come to guided reading sessions having already read the text. By doing this the guided reading session becomes more like a book group discussion. However, children below level 4 still need the structure of the guided reading session. How can you make the most of this session then to ensure that all pupils learn ‘exceptionally well’? We think a creative approach to questioning can offer a solution…
Shaking up questioning – statements
We’ve taught and observed a lot of guided reading sessions which means we’ve heard a lot of questions. We haven’t though heard so many statements; where you take the question, phrase it as a statement and ask the children whether they agree or disagree.
“This is a non-chronological report. Agree or disagree.”
“Goldilocks was a criminal. Agree or disagree.”
This type of questioning can be used with children at all levels. A child working at level one may tell you that Goldilocks was a criminal because she broke into the three bears’ home. Whereas a child working at level 5 may be able to tell you about a variety of text, sentence and word level features which ensure that the text can’t possibly be a non-chronological report but is an explanation instead. Practise this in the guided session and you may find that you can set this sort of question as an independent task.
Shaking up questioning – right and wrong
Provide children with two opposites. Their task is to decide which is true and how they know.
“Why is this a traditional tale and this not?”
“Why is this a good choice of word to describe James and this is not?”
“Why is this a good written response to the question and this is not?”
Imagine choosing a great adjective from a text and then a less effect one to describe James (you could even add one of your own here). Getting children to explore the quality of language by comparing two examples is often more effective than the simple question, “Can you find a good adjective in the text?” The idea of comparing written responses to a question is really just like the practice we use in writing – of comparing a good and not so good example in order to generate success criteria. In guided reading it is a structure which enables us to train children to make a point, find the evidence and explain – PEE as lots of teachers like to call it.
Shaking up the questioning – starting with the answer/the end
This type of question can be tricky to devise but is worth the effort as it facilitates reasoning skills and also makes strong links to children’s prior knowledge.
“The answer is a persuasive text. Why?”
“Here is my drawing of the main character. What can you see?”
Just think about the knowledge a child must have in order to tell you why the answer is a persuasive text. Imagine how much knowledge they must have about a character to be able to confirm that the drawing is that character; and then tell you where in the text that information has come from.
Finding out more
These ideas for moving guided reading from good to great were inspired by the work of Shirley Clarke in her book Active Learning Through Formative Assessment. It’s a book we turn to regularly and as with all teaching. The ideas we’ve shared here in the context of guided reading can be transferred to good effect across the curriculum. After all great teaching is great teaching, whatever the subject.
You can now download our book of prompts for guided reading absolutely free of charge by visiting our resources page. These are presented as traditional questions but can easily be adapted to the structures shared above.